tv Newsmakers CSPAN September 7, 2014 6:00pm-6:31pm EDT
this week is mary kay henry, head of the service employees international union, representing 2 million union members in the u.s. and canada. this follows protests over wages and fast food restaurants. patrick temple west is with "politico," andy sullivan is with reuters and covers politics. >> your union participated in nationwide protests. 500 people were arrested. these workers are not members of the union. why are you participating? >> we want to support any workers joining together to improve their lives. fast food workers are one of the most underpaid and undervalued jobs in the service sector economy, and we have been incredibly inspired by the fearlessness of these workers that took it to the next level yesterday off from our
perspective, because they had the willingness to risk arrest and bring more attention to the economy that does not work for them when they work really hard and cannot even afford basic necessities. we support their demand for $15 and a union, because when people have more money to spend in their local communities, they are going to be able to buy groceries, go to the hardware store, by more close for their kids, and get the economy going again, in every community in this nation. >> the national labor relations board recently ruled in your favor. i said mcdonald's is liable for employment and wage violations of its franchisees. a lot of these restaurants are not owned by mcdonald's. they are owned by individual business people. does this help you potentially enlist mcdonald's workers into your union? or you plan to do that? >> that decision confirmed what every fast food worker knows, which is, if the corporation
sets the price of the burger, the coke, where the equipment comes from, then those corporations can have a say about how to increase wages across this nation. so for our union, the most important thing is to support these workers' demand to win $15 and the union. unionization will be secondary to making the breakthrough we believe will be transformative to all service sector workers, who are earning minimum wage, no benefit, no guarantee jobs. it will inspire people to believe $15 an hour is not just for fast food workers, but airport workers, child care workers -- all across the service sector economy. we could transform this economy and make it work for everyone in this nation, if these workers can win. faxed you plan to organize them? >> we are supporting their efforts along with faith groups, community groups, and cities across the country. we believe we are supporting
their organizing and coalition with community partners across the country. >> on the economics front, job numbers came out on friday that showed cap hiring across the country. even the fragile nature of the employment situation, how do you justify employers paying workers at least $15 an hour? >> when you look at the higher wages that have been one in local communities like san francisco and seattle, and you look at job growth and small business creation, when workers have more money to spend, it suffers economic growth in local communities. we reject the notion that higher wages are bad for the economy. we think higher wages are going
to make an economy that works for everyone in this nation. >> one of the arguments against a higher minimum wage is that employers would cut staff. they would lay off or not higher employees as a result of having to pay them more. what do you say to sciu members who might be concerned they would lose their jobs if the minimum wage more than doubles? >> i never heard an sciu member make that argument. i know that argument is in the ether. we think it is time up on the go down economics. when local communities raise minimum wage and you look at the neighboring community that has a lower minimum wage, you do not see jobs fly from one county to another. you actually see an economy where workers have more money to spend and small businesses are able to hire a few more people. it is good for the community. so we don't believe that has been the experience in cities all across this nation, that raised wages above the federal minimum. >> how many of your members make minimum wage, and what percentage is the sciu? >> we have organized workers the past 90 years that have been
minimum wage workers, that through collective bargaining have raised wages up to $13, $15 an hour, depending on whether you are a janitor, a home care worker, or a childcare worker. i do not know the exact percentage of our members that have been minimum wage workers. through the work of the union, and they are paid minimum wage jobs. i would guess of our 2 million, a million used to be minimum-wage jobs that we have made living wage jobs. that is why our members are so deeply committed to helping the fast food workers win. this is a movement that is not thinking about one shop at a time, one city at a time, how do we transform an entire sector of the service economy and raise wages for a million workers that are selling burgers in this nation, so we can impact the other 3 million workers that serve in fast food restaurants across this country?
it is an incredibly inspiring site. we are proud our homecare members joined just yesterday as part of the homecare workers also fighting for $15. this movement has already made gains. 100,000 seattle workers are on their way. 25,000 l.a. unified school workers were able to bargain their way up to 15. we do not believe these kinds of changes would be happening unless fast food workers had the courage and the guts to begin those strikes out there in new york. just 20 months ago, there has been a huge sea change in what people think they have the right to expect. >> you mentioned victories -- seattle, severn cisco, los angeles. a lot of other states have voted to gradually raise minimum wages as well. president obama has called for a national hike in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
that looks like it is not going anywhere. where do you think you could win a local or statewide minimum-wage hike? >> i was in oakland yesterday, with fast food workers, and the san francisco workers were excited they are going to raise their wage to $15 through the ballot this november. we know that close to 7 million workers have already had their wages raised through statement home wage actions or through city action. i do not know the number, but between 20 and 30 different referendums are on the ballot this november. i think this november we are going to see that there is huge popular support all across this country for raising wages, because people are sick of poverty wage jobs, when multinational corporations are earning billions in profits and ceo pay is 1200 1200 times what fast food workers make in a year. that has got to stop, and we have got to invest in the
frontline workforce again so people have money in their pockets and they can spend to get our economy would wearing again, and make it work for everybody, not just the wealthy few. >> these are liberal democratic places that have voted to do this. are any of these initiatives occurring in more conservative spots? >> there is backing for it in arkansas. there are conversations across this country. some of the most animated and exciting work that has happened in the fast food worker movement is happening across the south -- alabama, mississippi, north carolina, memphis, tennessee, and atlanta, georgia.
i think because of the fast food leadership, we are going to see more and more local communities saying, we should be able to raise wages too. >> one of the many stories written about protests -- the chamber of commerce produced an analysis that says more than 40 of the full-time employees at sciu headquarters make less than $15 an hour. the report was based on public documents provided to the labor department. does the chamber have its facts right? what is your response? >> i do not believe the chamber has its facts right, and i find it insulting that be shimmer of commerce, in the midst of the grossest income inequality in our generation, is trying to pick at such absurd claims, when workers are saying we want to fight for $15 and a union and make sure everybody shares in the asperity that is being generated in this nation. >> 10 minutes left. >> you had a victory in minnesota last month. health-care workers decided to join your union. you also faced a big setback in illinois after the supreme court ruled that you could not require workers there to pay their dues unless they did so voluntarily. in illinois, how many of those workers have opted out of their dues?
>> i don't know the exact number, but i think it was approximately 25% of the 55,000 that are members of the union are no longer investing in the collective bargaining we do there. what this court decision means is that nothing is going to stand in the way of homecare workers being able to join together and improve their jobs, and make sure they deliver the best care possible for seniors and disabled that they serve. that is what the 27 thousand homecare workers in minnesota said to the nation when they voted to form a union just last week, and that is what 1.5 million homecare workers said yesterday when they joined the fight for $15. there were cities all across this country where homecare workers joined fast food workers in the streets and said they want to make a national call for $15 and a union, because they believe that the work they do should be valued, and they should be able to have a living
wage and a stable life, so they can focus on the incredible caregiving that matters so much to the people they serve. asked how much of a disadvantage does it what you out if people are not required to pay into the organizing effort? >> it has been a temporary setback, but none of our local unions have turned inward. we know that the most important thing we can do at this moment is reach out our hands and have nonunion homecare workers and childcare workers and janitors and security officers and adjunct professors join our union, because we know that raising wages is a way to get the economy working for everyone, and that the entire country cares about how we are going to get those jobs that exist in this nation to be good jobs that people can raise their families on.
>> he mentioned corporate profits and executive compensation. we are six years out from the financial crisis. the obama administration has been criticized by some for not doing enough to punish the conditions that led to the financial crisis. what letter grade would you give to the obama administration on financial enforcement? >> i think the obama administration has done a-work to work with community organizations on how the housing crisis can be addressed. i think the president made one of the most inspiring speeches of our lifetime on labor day this year, and he called for workers being able to join together and form a union, so we can drive wages up again through collective bargaining, and through workers being able to have an organization. it has been really, really important to us that the
president has acknowledged the millions of workers that are trying to join together in the face of this economic crisis and improve their lives. >> you told me last october that 300,000 of your members would benefit from the affordable care act and be able to get health insurance for the first time. can you tell me how many of your members have been able to do that? >> we don't have an exact count, though we had 2 million conversations both in our union and with our family, friends, and neighbors from october through the end of january this past year, and we know in california that one local unions signed up 12,000 people inside its own house. we believe we reached at least 200,000 of the 300,000 who are now benefiting from how their for the first time in their lives, but in states like florida and texas, where the governor has blocked medicaid expansion, we are not able to extend the same coverage to our members there, and we are continuing to organize and hope
we will be able to make that case for medicaid expansion in this next year and during the next sign up, include more of our members and our family, friends, and neighbors, who will enjoy health care for the first time in their lives. >> i apologize. i was wrong before. it is 10 minutes now. >> sciu has traditionally been a big supporter of democratic candidates. i notice you are giving money to super pac's, like senate majority pac, that are able to spend unlimited amounts on elections. the standard line on the left is that they money hurts democracy and crowds out voices. why are you participating in this effort? >> our members give $10 of their hard-earned pay per month, and 300,000 of our 2 million members
actually give voluntarily to have a strong voice in the economy. what we think about is, how do we use our members' money, blood, sweat, and tears, in each election, to make our case about the issues that matter for working people? we are totally focused on helping candidates who fight for working people, and we need to raise wages throughout our economy. candidates are fighting for working people, and fighting to work for everyone. >> why do you give to a super pac instead of candidates themselves? >> we want our investments to be about, how do our members get to have one-on-one conversations about the issues, that matter to its communities -- in working-class neighborhoods, we
want to have a conversation about the economy, a conversation about the democracy and being able to vote and have an equal say in these elections. >> you mentioned fast food companies a lot, and scrutinize them for not paying workers enough. what other industries might be under scrutiny for not doing enough? and where my your protest demonstrations go next? >> it was inspired by the work that walmart workers are doing. we hope we will be able to work in coalition with other partners in the labor movement, in the retail sector, which is largely nonunion and employs 4 million people in this country. we know that is one of the fastest growing jobs in the u.s. economy, home health work,
because of the aging of our population. and we want to do a lot more work to allow homecare workers to join together and have a voice in their jobs and in the care they deliver. we think early childhood education is a sector where women who are the primary providers of care in this country have been totally underpaid for entire generation, and we want to raise wages and bring those jobs that we think build the brains of our young people and get them ready for school, into being valued again. >> $15 would be a homerun for you to get, in terms of raising the minimum wage nationally. why not paying minimum wage to inflation? would that be a more permanent goal? >> the fight for $15 and a union is a living wage fight, and the ability to continue to bargain other things, like earned sick leave and the ability to get the hours you need in order to make ends meet.
$15 may have sparked minimum wages rising across this country, what we are not just about raising minimum wage. we want workers to have the ability to bargain living wages across the service sector in this nation, because we know when service jobs become good jobs, we are going to help create the next american middle class that includes everybody this time, and we want to continue to work with brothers and sisters in the labor movement on raising auto-parts jobs and walmart jobs. we have a lot to do, but the fast food workers, i think, have made us believe the seeming impossible could be possible again in this country, because so much change has already happened in the discussion about what wages ought to be in this nation. >> as you know, we are in an era
of extreme political polarization. sciu's goals aligned closely with the democrats. do you see potential republican partners you can work with? >> we have worked in state legislatures and city council members, republican partners willing to stand up and fight for what working people most need in this country. we do not see party alignment as a litmus test. what we care about is how our elected officials stand on the issues creating a future for our kids, that when you work hard, you can earn a living and expect to retire with dignity, and have your kids do better than we have done. and we are deeply committed to having a fight to restore that promise for americans. >> can you name any nationally-non-republicans, either governors or members of congress, who have worked with you, who you view as allies? >> i can name republicans who are no longer in office. >> come on.
are you embarrassed? >> we have endorsed governor pataki in new york. when you set high office, there is no republican governor in current office that we are working with, because they do not stand for the values we have been fighting for and we have been discussing for the past 25 minutes. >> how about congress? >> we have worked with republican senators on the affordable care act, and immigration. the elected officials aligned with the issues that matter to working people -- we will work with anybody. we want to raise wages and make an economy and a democracy that works for everybody in this country. >> i am not hearing any names. >> i am sorry. i can't think of any that come to name at this moment. >> why the fast food chains -- burger king announced it is considering a deal to do a merger and acquisition deal to relocate to canada, in part to save on taxes. did you support such an
inversion if it means freeing up more corporate cash to pay employees? >> i think we have to have a sound and fair tax policy along with a sound and fair wage policy. i do not think there should be a trade-off, one for the other. we have to have corporations that are willing to invest in roads, bridges, and schools in this nation, because that is how we are going to become globally competitive again in this nation. we have been slipping in terms of our investments in education, roads, and bridges for a long time in this nation, and i think we need to get things back on the right track. >> on immigration -- you folks were big advocates for the comprehensive overhaul at the senate last year. president obama said earlier this summer that he was going to
act on his own, and we have news today that he has gotten his recommendation from his agencies, and will act pretty soon. we do not know when that is going to happen. is he going to take action before the midterms or after? many vulnerable senate democrats are urging him not to act until after the election. what do you think? should the president move as quickly as possible to act on his own, or should he take political considerations in mind? >> we want the president to act boldly and swiftly on the temporary relief he could provide immigrant families. we know we need to build the political power of immigrants and the communities we care about. we cannot rest until we create a situation in congress where a elected officials understand they have to pass common sense immigration reform. we are going to redouble our efforts this november to register and vote in communities that care for justice and all immigrants and our economy.
we are not going to rest until 11 million people in this country can step into the light and have a voice in our democracy and a say in our economy. >> does that mean he should hold off until after the midterms? >> we have called upon the president to do swift and bold action now on behalf of temporary relief for immigrant families. >> what is the number one company you see as being the most progressive, as doing the most for employees on wages, on quality of living standards? >> kaiser permanente health care. in our union, we think ford motor company and the uaw, ups with the teamsters union, at&t with cwa. there is a handful of corporate players in our economy that are responsible, that are able to earn a profit and do right by their workers. that is an ethos we are bound and determined to return to our entire economy.
>> that is it for our time. thank you to mary kay henry, president of the service employees international union, joining us from san francisco. think you for your time. >> thank you. >> let me turn to andy sullivan and patrick temple west. some big buckets in this conversation. let's start with the minimum wage debate in this country. you referenced that the federal is not going anywhere. why not? >> you have to pass a law through congress. as long as you have republicans in control of the house of representatives, you will probably not see any significant increase in the minimum wage. they are pretty unified on that. >> the states and localities -- have many had enough experience to know who is right in a debate over what happens when you raise a minimum wage? >> a lot of these do not kick in for several years. they take place gradually. seattle is $15 an hour, which is a huge increase, but it looks as
if it will be phased in over up to seven years. that takes quite a period. >> more on this question about the minimum wage? >> difficult to see it getting passed in congress now. i think the more pragmatic approach might be to take it state by state, local government level. it could face resistance from democrats or republicans. >> why both parties? >> all politics are local. if you have a big industry in your city, in your state, that is saying, we cannot increase minimum wage, that would put us out of business, democrats are going to be just as receptive to that as republicans are. >> let's talk a little bit about union membership. right now, the statistic is less than 7% of private-sector
workers are union members. ms. henry sounded bullish about trying to bring more people into the economy. what do you hear that might change that dynamic for workers, going forward? >> a lot of reasons for the decline in union membership broadly over the past 40 40 or 50 years are things like the changing nature of our economy. as we have shifted away from manufacturing, which is a strongly unified sector, that has hurt membership. right to work laws, especially in the south -- a lot of manufacturer has shifted to the south. there is not a culture of union membership. it is more difficult to unionize. we saw that in chattanooga. localization has hurt as well. the legal landscape has changed. it is harder to organize in a union. also, a lot of these new jobs are in the service sector, areas
that have not been traditionally unionized. sciu has been pretty aggressive in trying to move into these areas. you heard ms. henry talk about trying to organize professors in colleges, which is not normally the type of workforce you would think would need to be unionized, but a lot of people feel they are not paid well and work conditions are terrible. >> it does not seem to be a priority for a lot of my friends out there. they do not say, i am taking this new job because i get a chance to join the union. they are taking the new job perhaps out of interest in working for that company. it seems they want to work for a company rather than work for a union. >> if you recall, when president obama campaigned in 2008, one of his promises was card check, a member that would make it easier for a union to move into a workplace and organize and get a vote.
that felt pretty quickly by the wayside. he got a lot of difficult things done, like the affordable care act, but this one pretty much disappeared quickly. >> you asked a lot of questions about dirty politics. in the 2012 campaign, sciu was the top spender, according to statistics. it was hard to get any examples of republicans. if you look at the records, do they give to republican candidates, or is it pretty much a democratic effort? >> i don't have the figures in front of me, looking through the records, it was overwhelmingly democratic. there are some unions that will give to republicans and support republicans. some of the construction trades, the labors. because of the nature of the people it organizes, low-wage workers tend to be overwhelmingly democratic to begin with. that is just not their natural constituency. >> you did not get an answer to the pac question. what advantages would an organization have in giving to a pac?
and, these groups cannot work directly with the candidate. they know what they are doing and they can spend as much as they want on television advertisements and independent door-knocking operations. you have money to spend and you might as well put it there. >> what did you hear in the conversation that suggests what the landscape is going to look like? republicans are opposed to many of the initiatives. u ist seems that sei making a misstep. republicans could weaken intransigence on minimum wage. they say, we are going to
contribute to a handful of republicans because we think they could be the most open to working with democrats and break some of the law jim that we see in congress now. effort inelp the generating some goodwill in washington. speculate that there is more before election day? >> i don't know. the schedule seems to be working for them and they seem to be happy with it. it seems to making people talk about the minimum wage increase and it makes for great visuals. it has the potential to expand membership. i am sure we will see more. >> with congress returning, here